'Make Afrikaans equal to English': DA launches petition to end 'war' against mother tongue at SU

The DA launches petition to promote Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University.
The DA launches petition to promote Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University.
Image: Gallo Images

The DA has launched a petition to make Afrikaans equal with English at Stellenbosch University, saying it is to protect the right to mother tongue education at the university “against persistent attacks by university management”. 

According to DA MP Leon Schreiber, the “war” against mother tongue education at the university became more intense over the past few weeks after first-year students at several residences were banned from speaking Afrikaans in their rooms and even on park benches on campus.

He said the current management, led by Rector Wim de Villiers, was anti-Afrikaans and its stance amplified the university’s refusal to act in defence of the students’ constitutional right to mother tongue education and to speak their own language.

In 2016, the university implemented a new language policy that elevated the status of English in an effort to not make black students, who are not fluent in Afrikaans, feel marginalised, excluded and stigmatised.

In October, last year, the Constitutional Court unanimously found in favour of the university, which opposed an application by Afrikaans-language lobby group Gelyke Kanse to compel the institution to return to its 2014 language policy.

The DA's petition has so far garnered 2,838 signatures. Its goal is 20,000 signatures.

Among other things, the petition demands that the university restart the review of the 2016 language policy with the aim of creating a new policy that guarantees an equal place for Afrikaans.

The party said the new language policy must create a fair language dispensation that grants equal status for Afrikaans and English as primary languages of teaching and student life in all spaces including online spaces of the university.

“Given the way in which the Afrikaans offer was dramatically reduced by the 2016 language policy, the new language policy must explicitly commit to increasing the Afrikaans offer to ensure full access for all deserving students who wish to study in Afrikaans while maintaining access for students who wish to study in English,” said Schreiber.

“The petition will be handed over to management, and will also be accompanied by comprehensive proposed amendments to the new draft language policy.”

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